Sunday, January 24, 2010

Video of kitesurfing downwinder at Port Douglas with sea creature

I have just completed the helmet cam video of last year's downwinder kitesurfing tour from Pretty Beach to Port Douglas in far north Queensland (better late than never).

Highlights in include dolphin noises under the water - and an encounter with a large sea creature - possibly a dugong.

See Downwinder from Pretty Beach to 4 mile beach for the detailed trip report

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A tour from St Kilda to Sandridge

Session 80, Saturday 23 January 2010

Kite: Switchblade 14m
Location: St Kilda
Wind: 20 knots S
Duration: 11:00 to 1:00pm - 2 hours

Some frontal wind came through in the mid morning which was a bit gusty for kitesurfing. Stuart headed out fairly early and got in some good runs. He was leaving St Kilda just as I was about to go out. I took out the 14m kite due to the likelyhood of the wind dropping out.

After a few runs with reasonable power off the beach I decided to go for a tour and headed up past Station Pier and the Spirt of Tasmania to Sandridge beach. It is a nice ride, whizzing past some of Melbourne's most fashionable bayside suburbs. The wind dropped a little at Sandridge, so I abandoned any thoughts of heading out past the car shipping dock across the Williamstown, turned around and headed back to St Kilda.

The wind picked up so this run was quite enjoyable too. Back at St Kilda I headed into the surf zone inside the marina and did quite a few runs along the small break right up close to the Melboune Yacht Squadron. There were about six kiters in this region so we were watching our lines and kites. It isn't always easy to decide what to do when someone turns just in front of you.

I did some jumps exercising some caution. The hearing in my right ear has not yet fully returned - I may have to get it checked out further. Some of the other kiters were doing bigger jumps and landing in the shallow waves. Think is a bit too dangerous for my liking - if you stuff up then you could end up spudding into the bottom like Tarren did and breaking something.

After about two hours on the water my hands and feet were going a little numb so I came in and had a coffee at the nice new beach cafe right on the sand.

Maybe we can do the downwinder across to Altona tomorrow. We have all the required safety gear now and just need the right time and the right wind. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hampton with a helmet-cam and a crash

Session 79, Saturday 16 January 2010

Kite: Switchblade 10m
Location: Hampton Beach
Wind: 25+ knots S
Duration: 4:45pm to 5:40pm - 1 hour

A gusty 25 knot southerly arrived around midday so I headed to Hampton and rigged the Switchblade 10, this time with my helmet cam and kitecam mounted. No problems getting off the beach today! I was leaning back and using my body and legs to carve upwind in an effort to reduced the strain on my right arm and elbow. It seemed to work.

Helmetcam video

Heading off the beach

There was a decent swell so carving around the wave crests was a lot of fun, and surfing back down them was good too, but a little lumpy.

Carving the swells

I worked upwind to the breakwater and did some fast runs into the flat water. Then when coming out I jumped off a nice wave and sent my kite high. The wind god picked me up and smacked me down hard! I went up high and fast - the kite had just entered the stronger wind coming around the breakwater. The kite whipped too far to the right, hoiking me under it. I hit the water hard with a resounding smack on the right side of my head.

Heading out to the breakwater

My head hurt and it felt like my right ear may have burst. The helmet cam cam ajar and was flopping around on its safety cord. I remounted it, and checked the helmet flange, thinking I must have broken it. It was OK. After I gathered my composure I brought my kite back up and continued on, somewhat chastened.

Two big tips here: my helmet almost certainly saved me from a more serious injury and my impact vest effectively stopped the impact hurting my torso. In stronger and gusty winds kites can develop a mind of their own and things happen fast, as Tarren experienced last Thursday.

I did some faster runs past a large yacht which sailed up then motored into the harbour, then cruised back to the beach and back out. I did some more jumps - more measured this time; not too much speed and no big boost. I wonder now if I will ever attempt a kiteloop while jumping; the results could be catstrophic if you get it wrong. The water is not so soft when you are travelling at 30+ km/h and fall from 5 meters.

I did quite a few right hand carved turns finishing toe side down, then continued riding in that style to the right. It felt good, I was able to get some reasonable speed up. Not so good riding toe down to the left though yet.

Riding toe down

There were a lot of pole dancers (windsurfers) out having a ball. They are a friendly crew too and there are no hassles with kiters.

In among the windsurfers

After an hour my right arm was twinging a bit in the forearm, but the elbow felt OK, so I came in satisfied with a good session. And a reminder that safety and orderly skill progression is paramount.

On the way home I stopped at Green Point for a look. A good kitesurfer was working in the waves just behind the reef on the point. He was coming in surfing, doing a smal jump transition to turn, then heading out and jumping off the waves. After a while he headed back toward Brighton, doing some huge jumps a long way out.

A big jump

Kiting off Green Point with Westgate Bridge in the background

Kiting off Brighton Beach


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Some kiteloops at Hampton in lighter wind

Session 78, Thursday 14 January 2010

Kite: Switchblade 14m
Location: Hampton Beach
Wind: 15+ knots S
Duration: 7:15pm to 8:00pm - 45 minutes

Stayed at work until 5 so I missed out on the bike race at Sandown. A 20 knot Southerly was on though, so I headed for Hampton when I got home arriving at the beach at 7pm. A few kites were out, but the wind was dropping to around 16 knots so I rigged up the Switchblade 14 and headed out.

It was nice carving and kiting into the sun sinking towards the horizon. I was able to go crosswind for a couple of tacks, dodging a couple of large sailboats heading into the Hampton marina. A few jellyfish were about but they seemed to be about a metre under.

It was nice coming back in and carving some turns down the big swell humps rolling towards shore. The wind dropped a bit further so I did some "kite down" power turns and also some kite loops, including two in sequence (one right followed by one left). Lots of power in a kiteloop even in light wind. You just have to let the board run downwind a bit when the power kicks in.

I played a bit in the surf on tacks watching out for a couple of shallow reef sections. Eventually I landed at Middle Brighton then helped Rick land his kite. I ran back to get my car while Rick stayed with the gear.

My right arm was feeling OK. It was a bit sore around the elbow but no sharp pain during or after the kiting. It seems to be stabilising but it was good to have a light session.

I got an SMS from Stuart on the way home saying he was in accident & emergency with Tarren who had hurt his ankle and possibly broken it when they were kiting. No update on the outcome yet. Fingers crossed Tarren . . .

Update Friday 15/1/2010
Tarren's ankle is broken. He landed a jump badly in shallow water. Tip from Stuart: Don't jump in shallow water or near the shore.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ripping at Inverloch in 22+ knots late in the day

Session 77, Sunday 10 January 2010

Kite: Switchblade 10m
Location: Inverloch - Anderson Inlet
Wind: 23+ knots E
Duration: 4:00 to 5:00 - 1 hour

The wind god smiled again. After a day around Cape Paterson, where the wind picked up around 1pm but didn't really get strong and was onshore onto a crowded beach, Chloe, Simon and I ended up in Inverloch eating fish and chips for dinner.

On arriving, kites were up and going in the inlet, and one was out in the surf with a windsurfer. After dinner Simon suggested I have a go as he thought I was looking restless, so we drove to the inlet launch site.

I feverishly rigged my 10m kite and got on the water pronto. No helmet, GPS or sunglasses today, but I did wear my vest.

A strong consistent easterly (weird but true) was ripping down the inlet. The 10m kite was ripping upwind and inlet was not too choppy. I did some good jumps on the left tack out in the middle near a sandbar, but was more tentative on the right tack near the shore and shallow water.

Another dude was cranking massive air on an 8m kite - around 5 meters or more - and landing them. According to Simon he was changing direction during the jump too. Advisable given the proximity to shore.

The wind direction meant that the tack took me across to a sandbank that was just covered by water. I ventured onto it a couple of times but there was very little water and potential to bottom out. It would have been good to get across and continue across the inlet; a couple of guys did this later after I landed my kite.

There was a kitesurfing school conducting lessons on location - but I didn't note their name. The student was out of the way and accompanied in the water by an instructor. They seemed to be doing a good job.

The 10m Switchblade flies and turns much quicker than the 14m kite, and seems to go upwind much better too. I was able to ride toe down on the right tack too. No kiteloops today! But a lot of speed, and good clean wind. I don't know where this wind came from, there was no sign of it in Melbourne when I got back to town.

My daughter Chloe on a "seaweed trampoline" at Cape Paterson

Building a sandcastle and a "rock pool pond seaweed garden
And a nice headband!

Post script

I checked the BOM website and found this warning - which appears to explain the easterly - but it has arrived early.

Coastal Waters Wind Warning
for Victorian waters between Lakes Entrance and 60nm east of Gabo Island.

Issued at 10:34 pm EDT on Sunday 10 January 2010.
Please be aware
Wind gusts can be 40 percent stronger than the averages given here, and maximum waves may be up to twice the height.

Weather Situation

A high pressure system just east of Tasmania will continue to move eastwards, reaching the Tasman Sea early Monday as a low pressure trough develops over the Bight.

Strong wind warning for Victorian waters between Lakes Entrance and 60nm east of Gabo Island
Winds: Northeasterly and increasing up to 30 knots Monday morning. Combined sea and swell: Increasing up to 4 metres.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Downwinder to Brighton in a lighter wind

Session 75, Saturday 9 January 2010

Kite: Switchblade 14m
Location: Hampton to Brighton
Wind: 15 knots S
Duration: 4:00 to 5:00 - 1 hour

GPS stats
Max speed: 32.7 km/h
Trip odo: 10.1 km
Mov'n avg 8.1 km/h
Mov'n time 1:14

Stuart and I got to Hampton about 3:00 with a good southerly blowing. Stuart rigged his kite in lightning speed and was out past the breakwater in no time having a ball.

I set up my kitecam rig then took the 10m kite to the crowded beach. It was hard to launch as the wind dropped; I couldn't get off the shore so I aborted the takeoff and waited on the beach. It was weird; it seem the strong wind was coming in and stopping about 100m from the shore.

Some others with bigger kites were occasionally getting going off the beach. Others were trying in vain to get 12m kites going, and there were a few times kites dunked in the water close to swimmers.

If it is a nice day and there is not around 20knots of wind on the beach, Hampton can become a problem for kiting. If you are a beginner, don't practice close to the shore on days like this. The close proximity of kites to beach goers is not a good idea.

Tarren got out and going on his 13m pillow case (a Peter Lynn foil kite). Eventually I decided to give the 14m kite a go, and was able to get going. After a couple of tacks - and some feeble attempts at a back roll - the wind dropped below 15 knots so I headed downwind past Middle Brighton, just clearing the point. The reef on the other side has some fun waves but is shallow and very rocky. Approach it with caution.

I did a few kite loops and got a big boost even in the light wind, and made my way towards Brighton, coming in where there were quite a few kites idle on the beach. There were no kiters on the water.

I stashed my gear at the Brighton LSC then started the long trot back to the car. Halfway Stuart drove past - a welcome sight. We retrieved my gear, had fantastic gelaties, then headed home.

My right arm was again a bit sore near the elbow. It is muscular I think. You can't have too much strength in your arms and fitness for kiting.


Grab the board

Head for the water

In the water - about to get going

Kite down, no wind - bummer

Rick contemplating launching his 14

How do I turn this interval shoot mode off?

Downwinder track - watch those reefs!

The fickle wind - about 12 to 3 was best

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A cross wind tour to Fawkner Beacon across the shipping channell

Session 74, Thursday 7 January 2010

Kite: Switchblade 14m
Location: Hampton to Fawkner Beacon
Wind: 15 knots SE
Duration: 6:15 to 7:15pm - 1 hour

GPS stats
Max speed: 37.4 km/h
Trip odo: 22.6 km
Mov'n avg 19.3 km/h
Mov'n time 1:10

I was feeling adventurous today, so when a reasonable South Easterly arrived late in the afternoon I headed for Hampton in lieu of bike racing at Sandown (don't tell my racing buddies!). It was a lovely sunny afternoon and the wind seemed stronger than the 15 knots indicated at Fawkner Beacon.

I rigged the 14m Switchblade, donned my impact vest & GPS caddy and took off heading towards Fawkner Beacon in the far distance to see if I could get there. The swell was fairly small so I was able to make reasonable progress a little upwind.

My right arm soon felt a little tired again, so I held the power in the bar in the middle with my left hand and used the right to adjust the kite up and down when required. I also varied my stance by leaning right back, extending my arms and varying the bend in my knees and the power in my legs.

I stayed on the left tack marvelling at the distance covered and was again struck by a "wilderness experience" far out in the Bay with nobody else around, apart from one large yacht that sailed by close early on.

Eventually I came to a large channel bouy, then a two wooden channel marker poles. I cross the channel to reach another buoy on the other side and slowed down to appreciate the view. The bayside suburbs were spread out in the distance, the Dandenongs clearly visible out East, and the city skyline to the North. Cool, very cool.

I turned and got a good look at the Fawkner beacon not far to the South - about 200m away. It has solar panels on it, and is the data source for the wind charts I post on this blog. There is some meteo gear on it too - it is essentially a pole festooned with equipment.

It would have been a very long way to swim in so I headed straight back to Hampton, surfing down and around the small waves. For a while I was headed upwind slightly to the Sandringham Marina bout harbour and club house, but about two thirds of the long tack in the wind dropped a little so I headed towards the beach. Track log showing context is below.

Zooming you can see the approximate location of Fawkner beacon, the shipping channel is clearly marked on the map. There were no big ships about when I was out there.

There were a few other kites about close to shore. I zoomed straight in to the beach next to the first groyne, pleased as punch to have made it. I then did a few tacks out and back until I was able to reach the main beach, by which time the wind had dropped further so I landed the kite and had a chat with Hamish on the beach.

It seems I was lucky to make it back in with no dramas as the wind dropped right off by about 7:30. (graph below). It is really good to mix up the kiting with some tours and adventures.

Getting ready for the big Bay crossing . . .

Sunday, January 03, 2010

A sunny afternoon at Hampton in 15 knots

Session 73, Sunday 3 January 2010

Kite: Switchblade 14m
Location: Hampton
Wind: 15 knots SW
Duration: 3:30 to 4:30pm - 1 hours

Got to the beach in the afternoon after a bike race in the morning then lunch with friends . It was blowing above 20 knots when I arrived so I was going to take out to 10m kite, but then it dropped so I took the 14m kite to the beach and set up. The wind dropped further so I waited for a while and chatted.

When it picked up a bit I headed out. Fine sunny day and not too hot, but a little more wind would have been nice.

Maybe I was spoilt after yesterday's downwinder, but going upwind seemed like a chore. I think the 10m Switchblade goes upwind better than the 14 - it seems to fly closer to the edge of the wind window.

I seem to have trouble getting the 14 to go hard upwind, but it certainly cranks on a reach. I did quite a few runs out and back, around the point to look back at Brighton. My right are was a bit sore around the elbow after yesterday's session and it got tired again today. Too much kiting? Not yet.

I am liking the impact vest for jumps - it certainly softens a hard landing.

A couple of fast cats came by; they certainly go upwind better than a kite. 15 knots is enough wind, but 20+ is better. And going downwind gives you lots of opportunities to try out some fancy turns, wakestyle riding and the like.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

A great downwinder to Port Melbourne in the New Year

Session 72, Saturday 02 January 2010

Kite: Switchblade 10m
Location: Hampton to Port Melbourne (Sandridge beach)
Wind: 15 to 20 knots SW
Duration: 12:30 to 2:00pm- 1.5 hours

GPS readings
Max speed: 38.4 km/h
Trip odo: 25.2 km
Trip time: 1:29
Ave speed: 17 km/h

A classic downwinder! Woo hoo!. The forecast wind arrived in the morning, it looked like it would stick around so I headed for Hampton at noon where it was showing about 20 knots. Only one other kiter out, and another on the beach.

Hampton Beach departure point

I was really keen for an adventure, so I decided to attempt a downwinder to St Kilda or beyond. The wind was about 25 knots at South Channel so I decided to take out the 10m kite in case it got stronger in the north of the bay.

I stashed some gear (kite bag, foam sandals, shorts, shirt & wallet) in my 18l waterproof backpack, then launched about 12:45. The wind had backed off a bit, but there was enough power in the 10m kite so I headed off on the tour.

Out to sea at first for a distance. Some really big swell forming as I came down and back in to Brighton. Great surfing; the wind carries you onto the waves which you can then surf down. Carving and S turns are great. I carved on the edge right around to finish the turn toe side down and kept going. Seems simple, but you have to watch where the kite goes. Its a lot of fun.

A few jellyfish lurking beneath the waves, but not many. I surprised one cormorant a fair way out. A felt a sense of solitude too. There were kites closer in at Brighton, but open water where I was. Great views of the bayside and the city too.

I came right in to Hampton over the reefs, then headed on down past the Brighton pier and marina. Not a place to ditch the kite as there is nowhere good to drift in, so I exercised some caution. Rounding the breakwater is a relief as beach is visible. I came in past the breakwater and closer to shore for a look around, but there was less wind so I headed straight out again.

It was better surfing the waves on the starboard (right) tack rather than the port (left tack). I came into the rock wall just near North Road, then headed to Elwood Beach where three windsurfers were enjoying the small surf. I caught a few waves then headed past Point Ormand - just clearing the reef of the point - then headed out again on a tack towards the refineries now visible at Williamstown.

I was contemplating a crossing to Altona or Williamstown, but given I was on my own decided that staying closer to shore was prudent. By now the wind was backing off a little. I had to work the kite occasionally then another stronger gust would come through and I would be zooming across the water again.

A large cruise boat was visible at Port Melbourne so I decided to head past it and finish at Sandridge Beach. I passed by the St Kilda marina and breakwater a fair distance out, and saw some kiters at St Kilda a lot closer in. A large container ship was heading for the Yarra too past Williamstown.

The wind dropped a little further, so I was mindful of staying out far enough to make it to Sandridge Beach, as it was too light to go upwind. By now most of the kites at St Kilda were in an stationary. Then I noticed my right foot was swivelling! The right foot binding/strap was rotating on the board. Another loose screw. Tip: when checking your board, check all screws (fins and footstraps).

I was intent on keeping a straight tack and some speed up to get past the moored cruise ship and the Beacon Cove pier complex where there is no safe landing. Sandridge Beach loomed up as a welcome goal, then the wind died. I couldn't keep the kite up and started drifting slowly into the beach from about 300m out. I was contemplating a self rescue to get the kite lines out of the way and drift/swim in, but then the wind picked up. I relaunched the kite and came straight in.

GPS track log of downwinder

I was really stoked to complete this adventure. I changed into my dry clothes, packed the kite, stowed the wet gear then walked to Port Melbourne for a fantastic coffee and banana chocolate muffin. The batteries in my helmet cam were flat and I didn't set up the kitecam properly, so unfortunately there are no action shots of the downwinder.

Tram 109 at beacon cove

My gear at the cafe - bring on the latte and muffin!

I then caught tram 109 to Colllins St, walked down Collins St to Flinders Street Station (getting some curious stares along the way) and caught the Sandringham train back to Hampton. It was a short walk from the station back to the car.

The wind had picked up to 25+ knots. Ivan and a couple of others were kitesurfing hard and jumping high; they felt overpowered on 10m kites so I landed them for them so they could re-rig. A few photos of them in action are below.

Ivan said a helicopter had been buzzing a big shark (3m+) that was hanging around the Cerberus not far away. Food for thought . . .

Safety gear
  • Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)
  • GPS in Pacqua waterproof arm pouch
  • Mobile phone in Boxit waterproof jacket
  • Sunglasses

Downwinder gear

The gear I took on the downwinder gear in the photo below is:
  • Board, Naish Haize 144
  • 1mm wetsuit
  • Waterproof backpack 18 litres
  • Kitebag (in backpack)
  • Bouyancy vest
  • Foam sandals (in backpack)
  • Helmet
  • Harness
  • Bar
  • Safety gear (PLB, GPS, mobile phone)

Naish Haze 144 - a great all round board